Characteristics of Fukugi Tree (Garcinia subelliptica) in the Wild

Garcinia subelliptica
The Fukugi tree or Happiness tree (Garcinia subelliptica) is a tree species found in the coastal forests of East and Southeast Asia, particularly the Ryukyu Islands in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India.

Fukugi tree is now becoming popular as an ornamental tree all over the world. In Okinawa, the Fukugi tree is planted as a wind protection tree (a large tree). Due to their upright and compact shape, Fukugi trees are excellent for small gardens or roadsides. This tree is a symbol for the cities of Motobu and Tarama in Japan.

HISTORY OF THE FUKUGI TREE

The Fukugi tree was planted in the Ryukyu Islands by the Okinawans about 300 years ago, adhering to the concept of Feng Shui.

Fukugi trees lining the stone walls of traditional houses with red tiles and a pair of guardian lions are a part of Okinawa’s cultural landscape. The walls are 1.2-1.5 meters high protecting the lower part of the building while the foliage of the Fukugi tree protects the upper part, especially the roof. In the Ryukyu Islands, the aesthetic of the Fukugi trees that make up the landscapes of these villages embodies traditional wisdom and Satoyama’s concept of humans living in harmony with nature.

 
Although Garcinia subelliptica is not known for its use in traditional medicine, there is now convincing in vitro scientific evidence that this species is rich in bioactive compounds with pharmacological properties of medicinal value, especially anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Characteristics of Fukugi Leaf

Garcinia subelliptica Leaf
Source: flickr.com/LiChieh Pan

The leaves are simple, ovate or elliptical, spirally arranged in opposite pairs. The underside is yellow-green, the upper side is dark green and glossy. The tips of the leaves are rounded or very wide and slightly notched. The base of the leaf is blunt, and the edges are smooth and intact.

The size of the leaves is about 8-16 cm long and 5-8 cm wide, with a leaf stalk length of 0.5-1 cm. The central vein is very prominent because it is yellowish while the side veins are not visible. The young rash is reddish-bronze, quickly turning a bright yellow-green, eventually turning dark green as it matures.

 

Characteristics of Fukugi Flower

Garcinia subelliptica Flower
Source: flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

Male and female flowers on the same plant. The flowers are borne in clusters, with male flowers sometimes on pseudo spikes.

 

Characteristics of Fukugi Fruit

Garcinia subelliptica Fruit
Source: flickr.com/calando

The fruit is oval, green when young and yellowish-orange when ripe, and has a very sour taste.

The Fukugi tree begins to flower in early May, and its fruit ripens in late August every year. Ripe fruit that falls gives off a strong, unpleasant odor.

Ripe Fukugi fruit is a source of food for the Ryukyu flying fox (Pteropus dasymallus).

 

Characteristics of Fukugi Tree

Garcinia subelliptica Tree
Source: flickr.com/calando

Fukugi tree is an evergreen tree that can grow to a height of 20 meters with a trunk diameter of 40 cm. The canopy of young trees forms a cone while those of mature trees are rather wide and look very elegant.

Of the 683 Fukugi trees measured in Okinawa, the average tree height, trunk diameter, and tree age were 10 meters, 35 cm, and 140 years.

Old Fukugi trees can reach a trunk diameter of 80 cm and are over 300 years old. These growth data show that Fukugi is a very slow-growing tree.

 

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